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Buy: Sloane Wolf by Margay; Nora's Soul by Margay; Pandora's Box by Gracen; Hell's Phoenix by Gracen

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Monday, August 31, 2009

Not Just Any Monday!

Happy Monday Everyone!  

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know it's Monday and many of you are back at work and not very bright-eyed or bushy-tailed, for whatever the reason.  Well, I happen to be in a good mood because I have something great to tell you!  

After months of heehawing, I finally did it, I jumped in with both feet and entered my first contest!  But not just any contest, a paranormal fight club!  That's right, a paranormal fight club!  Terry, one of my invited guests for today, will get to that in a minute, but first, I wanted to tell you how all this came about because it demonstrates just how important your online writing community connections can be.  

To be honest, I can't remember exactly how I stumbled upon Romance in the Backseat (RITBS), but I can tell you what caught me while I was there.  I think I might have been searching for round robins and I came across the round robin called, "May Flowers".  Well, I started reading and got hooked enough to join Ning (another bloggerverse).  I started making comments about the story (it was pretty good) but from my other forays into author sites and blogs, I didn't feel any fear about contacting Terry Kate when I discovered a link on her site wasn't working.  We developed an acquaintance which eventually grew.  I have a lot of respect for what she and the other ladies do at RITBS because it's a huge site to maintain and requires a lot of effort.  Their dedication to the site is evident just by looking at it.  

Then the next round robin started, "White Wedding Nightmare", and I continued to read that and was thoroughly impressed by the effort not only from the authors involved, but from the coordinator as well, Terry Kate.  We continued talking and somewhere along the way, she mentioned that she was looking for unpublished authors for a contest.  I was so comfortable with myself by this point that I said, "That would be cool! I would love to compete, if you want me, that is."  Okay, maybe not as comfortable as I first thought, but comfortable enough to jump at the chance to compete in a competition.  

But, as I said before, this isn't just your regular old writing competition, it's a paranormal fight club!  [Okay, I wish I had some cheesy music to play right here, but I don't!]     

So, what's a Paranormal Fight Club, you ask?  Well I'll let Terry Kate you!  

RITBS - BookRomance in the Backseat's 

First Annual 
Paranormal Author Fight Club

Wow what a title!  But what does it mean?

Not what you might think.  

No large barbwire cage matches with bats and brass knuckles, just eight authors competing for your votes with their writing.  Eight authors from all over the world - There is an Aussie - rising to the challenge and going head to head on paper. 

October 1, 2009 all authors receive the first paragraph of the Fight Club story.  Where they go from there is up to them.  They have one week to finish their first pages which will then be posted on Romance in the Backseat for readers to enjoy and place their votes for who should move forward.  8-6-4-2-1 The winner will be announced on October 31, Halloween.

[Watch for a link to the site, so you can cast your vote! - for me, Carrie, hopefully!]

None of these authors have been published before and it is my great hope that the exposure these fabulous writers get here will bring their voices to the attention of publishers and readers alike.  Plus it should have oodles of shapeshifting poodle fun.

Hey no one else used that before.  I call it!      

Terry Kate - Creator of Romance in the Backseat  

Here are some of my competitors:

Tonya Callihan

Tonya CallihanI write romances, mainly erotic. I have been writing for ten years now, but only started to pursue writing as a possible career two years ago. I have never had a romance of mine published.  I also write for several other websites, mostly freelance. I review for many sites, LASR/Whipped Cream, You Gotta Read, Mistress Bella Reviews, Fresh Fiction and HRC.  I am excited to be apart of Romance in the Backseats Paranormal Contest. I think this will be a lot of fun, help tone my writing, and give me exposure I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
View: Tanya's Tidbits - her bimonthly column with Fresh Fiction
Tanya's Ramblings - her blog
Tanya's Website - sorry, but you must be 18 to visit. Be honest, are you 18 years of age? Yes or No?

Shaunee Cole

Shaunee ColeI started writing in college and loved it so much, I decided to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing.  Though I loved romance and its sub-genres, grad school taught and encouraged me to write literature, so I did, or more precisely, tried.  Unfortunately, I never really found my voice and decided to put down my pen.   

After a lot of time working in corporate America, I decided to get back to what I really love, but this time I promised myself I’d follow Mr. Sinatra’s fine example and do it my way.  I’ve been writing paranormal romance/urban fantasy ever since.  In addition to writing, I work in a public relations office college as a graphic designer.

Watch for updates of more contestants!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Gracen's Review of The White Queen

The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

First off let me say, I loved the movie The Other Boleyn Girl. I never read the book, but after viewing the movie and then learning we were going to get the opportunity to read this book, The White Queen, and review it, I was super excited.

However, my rating of this book is 2 out of 5 kisses. Within the first five pages, that excitement turned to disillusionment after sitting down with the book in hand. The blurb on the cover jacket sounded interesting and I loved the title of the book. Unfortunately, that’s all I enjoyed about the book. I found the material dry, so boring that I would read a page and then realize I couldn’t recall one thing I had read. Fearing I was allowing my family to distract me (which has never been a problem before), I secluded myself from their chatter and instead found myself asleep.

I don’t believe it was Ms. Gregory’s writing that had me bored with The White Queen. In fact, I couldn’t fault Ms. Gregory as far as her writing style went. The book was written in first person format and while I’m not partial to this format, I have read many books in first person and enjoyed them. Rather, I think it is the book’s contents that I found myself bored with and unable to process with any entertaining value. I am not a history buff and absolutely abhorred history in high school and college. So, the only thing I can surmise is that it was the in-depth historical facts that bogged down any entertainment value the book might have had for me.

So, my advice…don’t read this book or not read this book based upon my review. I’m a romance and horror lover. The White Queen was the first historical book I’ve ever attempted to read (other than academic history books which are just as dry in my opinion). That fact alone lends credence to the fact that I’m not a good judge of character where The White Queen is concerned.

I look forward to Margay’s and Carrie’s reviews. Hopefully, they can give a better recommendation for this book than I can offer you.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

YA Author Spotlight Saturday Presents... Ashley Rice!!!

Hi Everyone!

I usually read at least one book by an author before I compose interview questions. In Ashley's case though, I was not able to do so because I could not find them at my local library. For her interview, my questions are based solely on what I found through her website and other places. Check out Ashley's Website for some cool stuff and graphics. Now, on to the interview!

Ashley RiceQ. According to your website, you lived in many different places. Why was that? Why did you move so often?

A. I moved away to go to college, then I lived in different places for internships, a foreign exchange program and to attend graduate school. I moved to Northern California just because I wanted to see what it was like to live there and one of my friends who was living there at the time convinced me to go.

Q. When did you do most of your moving? How old were you?

A. I wrote Girls Rule while I was a full time graduate student in my mid to late twenties living in an old piano factory/artists’ community in Boston. Before that I lived in Northern California and Southern California, in my early twenties. I currently live in Dallas, Texas, where I mostly grew up, but I’ve also lived in New Jersey (for college), Spain (when I was 15) and New York City (for a summer when I was 19 and working at a literary agency). I was born in Houston but only lived there until I was three.

Q. How did all of the moves affect your life and relationships?

A. I had to become flexible and learn how to take care of myself and get around in new places. I think it helped me grow as a person and to be able to get along with all different types of people.

Q. Have you used this experience to draw on for any of your books?

Incredible KidA. Living in so many different places and meeting so many different people from different places helped me learn a lot of things. A lot of what I learned about hopes and dreams and friendship and life in general from those people and places has gone into my writing and illustration. Constantly experiencing new and different things – which I try to do all the time, even now -- keeps me constantly learning and drawing and writing.

Q. While I found your book through a Young Adult search on Amazon, what would you say is really your target audience/age group?

A. Most of my books are poems created for 9-12 year old kids to inspire them but I’ve gotten letters from twenty-five and thirty year olds who say that the books have affected their lives, too, so I think that even though it generally says “for 9-12 year olds” on and other sites,20and you can find me through "young adult" searches, the books are really geared at whoever wants to read them. I didn’t really start writing them with a particular age group in mind, I didn’t think that much about it. But once I got into that market I did start concentrating more on the fact of who my target audience was.

Q. Why this age group?

A. 9-12 year olds are just starting to face and confront a lot of the issues that they will face and confront for the rest of their lives: self-esteem, standing up for themselves, following their hopes and dreams, confidence -- so it’s good to get books out there to help and support them as they start their life’s journey.

Q. Why “girl power”? Why inspirational books? What was the draw for you?

A. I try to write books that I wish I’d had to read when I was growing up. Toni Morrison said if there’s a book you want to read, and it’s not out there, you’ve got to write it. So that’s what I try to do. I do the same with greeting cards.

Q. We know that your interest in writing and poetry lead to your current line of greeting cards, but why writing? How did your interest in writing and poetry come about?

A. I wrote my first “book when I was seven. It was called “The Pig Gets the Apple” and was about a bunch of farm animals helping each other out so that the main character, the pig, could get this apple that he really wanted. I drew pictures to go along with it as illustrations. I think we were supposed to write a one-page story for class but mine was twenty pages. So I guess writing has always been there for me in one way or another.

Q. What kind of support and/or obstacles did you face in your writing career?

A. I was lucky to have the support of my publisher. I've worked with them for thirteen years now and they've been really great.

Q. Who is Penelope J. Miller and why is she pictured as a cartoon character rather than as a “real” girl, like most books do?

A. My books are heavily illustrated so it just fits in that she's a cartoon character. But as you read the books she also becomes you (the reader's) supporter and friend.

[I wanted to show you the neat graphic of Penelope, but I realized too late it wasn't in a format I could open and use on blogger! Sorry, but you'll have to visit Ashley's Website
to see Penelope.]

Q. Please tell us a bit about your newest releases that people will find available for purchase in September.

CollectionA. For an Incredible Kid includes true stories from when I was growing up along with tips for how to deal with things. I’m really excited about that one because I think it can help kids deal with tricky situations they face growing up. If I made a mistake as a kid I tell how I would have dealt with it now, given my current perspective. Girl Power: Penelope J. Miller’s Guide to Being Great is a collection of poems and inspiring sayings I wrote and illustrated about getting through things and triumphing as a girl in today’s world. Both of those books come with a ribbon bookmark with a silver charm attached, which is something new that my publisher is doing. They’re really neat books, and probably my favorite ones since Girls Rule and Thanks for Being My Friend. (Those are my two original favorites, partly because I had the most fun writing them).

Q. Are they targeted at the same age group as your other novels or do they have a new market in mind?

A. They're targeted at the same age group.

Q. What can they expect from these books?

A. Stories, poems, tips and a whole lot of fun!

Q. Excerpts are the best way to know if a book is what you’re looking for. Where can we find them?

A. On Amazon

Q. Some of the excerpts for your other books are the first 2-3 pages. Why not more?

A. controls that. I don't really know why they do it that way. [Well, that's a total bummer, they should really have a couple more pages to get the full idea of what each book is like!]

Thanks for visiting with us today Ashley!

Do you have anything you want to ask Ashley? Well, leave your question(s) in a comment post and she'll answer them for you!

[Hey, that could be the next book, Go Ask Ashley...for those of you who remember or have read Go Ask Alice.]

No questions? What about other stuff to say? Don't be shy, she'd like to hear from you!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Love Can Be Murder....Sierra Wolfe style!

Hi, it's me, Gracen. Before we get to Sierra's post, I wanted to mention how excited I am for Sierra and her new book, Love Can Be Murder, which was released Wednesday, August 26, 2009, by Wild Rosse Press. I had the privilege of reading this novel. It's a good book and it's a fun read! If you like paranormal romances, then I would recommend this one. the guest of honor....Sierra Wolfe!


It’s so hard to choose from your favorite type characters, that I just couldn’t do it. So, I wrote a story with all of my favorites in it. I know, that’s cheating, right?

I’ve loved to read about witches for years now. They are so fun, the magic and mystery. Casting spells and performing rites. Talk about empowering women! What could be better than that?

Vampires are another one of my favorites. Immortality, secrecy, living in the night when most of the world is fast asleep. It’s intriguing, sexy, and exciting all at the same time.

Lately, my attention has been riveted to ghosts. I love them! There’s always a story hidden there. How did they die? Why haven’t they moved on? Do they know what happened?

So, I decided why not a story with all three of them included. What could be better than that? I really enjoyed writing this story for that reason. I have to say, I didn’t get bored while I was working on it, even in the middle where you get the mid book slump you have to fight (at least I do). I think that’s the best way to fight the mid book slump, find something you love and write about it.

I hope you find it as interesting as I did. So, without further ado…



Alexander Forsythe's house is haunted. One wouldn’t think a hundred and three year old vampire would let a little ghost bother him, but this particular house guest has outstayed her welcome.

Alex detests witchcraft, but after discovering his ghost, Abbie, is the ancestor of the local witch, Willow Cowan, his choices are limited. Alex calls on Willow to help evict his ghostly tenant, but he begins to wonder if the sexy spell-caster might be more trouble than the ghost.

Willow thinks Alex needs her magical abilities to remove the spirit from his house. What she doesn't realize is that his specter is her long lost ancestor. She's not sure she wants to help the gorgeous vampire in his ghost hunt, until she sees a long lost family heirloom on display in Alex's house.

Alex is adamant that the necklace belongs to him.. It's been in his family since it was created for the wife of a distant ancestor. The necklace had been given to every wife of the first born son. He's reluctant to give away his precious heirloom to a witch.

Can they learn to work together and get past their differences? Or will Abbie be the one obstacle they can’t remove?

You can check it out at The Wild Rose Press.

For more information on me and what I'm working on, stop by my website. I'd love the company!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In the Moonlight with Loucinda McGary and a Giveaway


First of all, a BIG THANX to the ladies of Moonlight, Lace and Mayhem for inviting me to guest blog today.

Recently one of my critique partners and I were discussing favorite scenes in books, what we liked and why we liked them. After throwing out a few and analyzing our choices, my CP came to the conclusion that she consistently liked scenes where the hero and heroine kiss for the first time. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much I liked those scenes too! I loved reading them and writing them.

Unfortunately, the details of Aunty’s very first kiss are somewhat blurry. It was so very, very long ago… (I think, perhaps, it may have been Og and he hit me over the head with his club before he dragged me by my hair, hence the faulty recollection.) But I have very fond memories of first kisses from special ‘dates’ over the years. Usually the anticipation of those kisses proved more enjoyable than the actual lip contact, but AH! – the build-up!

Maybe that is why first kisses in fiction make such enjoyable scenes? The author can take her time building up all that wonderful tension between the hero and heroine and the actual moment of contact never has to be disappointing. Unlike real life, no clubbing, hair-pulling, bad breath, or tangling of tooth braces need ever happen! The author can revise and reinvent to her heart’s content, and the reader can savor all the lovely anticipation as many times as she wants.

Since my new release, The Treasures of Venice has a dual storyline and two sets of lovers, I got to have all the fun of writing the ‘first kiss’ scene twice! Here is the first kiss between my contemporary hero, Keirnan Fitzgerald, and my heroine, Samantha Lewis:

She stopped abruptly and pulled her hand away. Keirnan followed her gaze across the street where white letters on a green cloth awning proclaimed “Bello Giardino.” Window boxes filled with pink and yellow primroses decorated the front of the four-story hotel.

“Looks like we’re here.”

His libido suddenly over-rode his conscience, and urged him to do more than walk away.
Impossibly bad timing! He fought back the urge.

“Thank you again for being such a good sport, Samantha.”

When had he raised his hand? But he must have because it was poised next to her face. Of their own volition, his fingers cupped her cheek. Her smooth skin felt overheated in the cool air. Those ten thousand volts sizzled up his arm and made his pulse hammer.

“And I meant what I said back there on the Bridge of Sighs. He’s a fool. You’re better off without him.” And me.

Though shock flickered across her expressive eyes, she said nothing, the tip of her tongue moistening her bottom lip His hand moved from her cheek to cradle the back of her head, the silky strands of her hair flowing over and through his fingers. He lowered his head and slanted his mouth across hers, his own tongue lightly following the path of hers. She tasted warm and sweet. But without warning, the painted image of Serafina Lombardo flashed behind his closed eyes.

Saints in heaven, he was losing it! Keirnan pulled back and dropped his hand, but instead of releasing her as he’d intended, he grasped her hand and raised it toward his mouth.

“Take care, Samantha, luv,” he murmured and pressed his lips lightly against her palm.
Blood roared in his ears, but somehow he managed to drop her hand before he made an even bigger and far more stupid blunder.

And here is the first kiss between my Renaissance couple, Serafina and Nino:

Nino paced the open space in front of the bench. His graceful movements made her think of dancing. Who had he danced with during Carnevale?

“Well, he was right about the Doge’s niece.”

Serafina shifted her voluminous skirts so that he could sit next to her on the bench. He hesitated for a moment before he sat down.

“Maybe so, but he should not have poked fun at you.”

“I…” As at the cemetery isle, warmth seemed to radiate from him to her. “…don’t mind. Besides, I may not have a wart on my nose, but my jaw is too square and my mouth is too small.”

She repeated the faults her mother so frequently pointed out, except she never should have mentioned mouth. The instant she spoke the word, her eyes immediately went to his.

She watched in fascination as his lips parted and he spoke. “Your mouth looks perfect to me.”
“Not…” Her hand moved of its own accord. “…so perfect as yours.” Her fingers lightly brushed across his cheek and traced the edge of his lower lip. “Yours feels so soft.”

Serafina lifted her face and his warm smooth lips touched hers. The unexpected contact jolted them apart.

“Forgive me!” Nino leaped to his feet.

“Kiss me again,” she whispered, pulling him back down beside her.

Now THAT is a woman after Aunty’s own heart! I’ll bet she could even handle Og.

What about you? Care to share some memorable first kisses, either your own or fictional? One lucky commenter will win an autographed copy of The Treasures of Venice.

I want to send a HUGE thanks to Aunty Cindy for accepting my I want to send a HUGE thanks to Aunty Cindy for accepting my request to guest post on our little blog here. As always, Aunty, when you post something, it is truly entertaining! And this looks like another great book to throw on top of the wish list pile. Two love stories in one? I'm in! And with a cover like that, how can you go wrong? Okay, everyone, let the competition for the book giveaway begin! ~ Margay

UPDATE: The winner of The Treasure of Venice is Molly Daniels!! Congratulations!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

In the Moonlight with Lorhainne Eckhardt, author of The Captain's Lady

The Challenges of writing about a war that is still so prevalent in the news and sparks so many different reactions in people

Did you know I thrive on challenge? I believe quite strongly in moral issues. When I write a story it will be surrounding some prevalent issue, which is forefront to me at the time. We all have a voice and need to be heard. The difficult issues that arise, I believe they need to be addressed and brought to the forefront. In our fiction, it may be a fictional story, but the research done, you can lend another side to the reader. Especially of issues that spark controversy. That’s how we bring about change for the better.

Just mention the war in Iraq to anyone and the heart wrenching emotions that arise, will spark an instant debate along with the politics and the anger. The opinions and reactions are vast. I felt compelled during the war to write this novel. One was the support I felt needed to be extended to the troops. Whatever anyone’s view is of the war, the troops are the ones sent to the front line. We’re not there and they are. I do hope my novel will spark reactions in people, and create discussions about the challenges the troops face there everyday. What better place to write about the challenge and controversy that surrounds the Iraqi war then in a story.

Blurb: The Captain’s Lady

Captain Eric Hamilton is a powerful force in the U.S. Navy, having earned himself a reputation of being a hard-nosed chauvinist. He’s commander of the USS Larsen, a destroyer, currently deployed in the Persian Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Abby Carlton has just escaped from the man who held her captive for a year. Abducted while travelling in Paris, she was given to an Arab man as a gift, until one night she makes her desperate escape.

While on patrol one morning Captain Eric Hamilton discovers a dinghy floating aimlessly. Abby is found, battered and in an advanced state of pregnancy, lying in the bottom of the dinghy. From the moment she lay on the deck of his ship her innocence finds a way to penetrate his hardened heart. But time is running out. Eric is falsely accused of sexual assault and the CIA wants Abby and the baby for bait to flush out her captor.

Excerpt: The Captain’s Lady

“We have no reports of a ship in distress in the area, Captain.”

“What about fishing boats?”

“No, sir, no reports.”

Looking once more at his first officer, Eric issued curt orders, the harshness grating in his voice. “Send a rescue team to check it out.”

Handing the binoculars off to one of the crew members, he strode with determination off the bridge, heading directly to the ship’s launch. His well-trained crew scurried about. Joe appeared at his side and they watched from the rail as the small rigid hull sped off in the direction of the dinghy. His pulse rose and the dampness on his back soaked through his short-sleeved shirt.

“So what do you think?” Joe leaned on the rail, uncertainty clear in the crinkle of his brows.

“Don’t know, dammit.” Eric focused on the scene unfolding in the distance. Again he commandeered the binoculars from Joe and scrutinized the three-man team approaching, then securing the boat to the dinghy.

His senses were keen; over the years, he’d learned to trust them. The uneasiness that crept its way into his gut, the hairs now standing up on the back of his neck and the racing of his heart; this unshakable feeling was telling him that things were about to change—drastically. Puzzled, he felt the mounting frustration build inside, along with something else he could not quite put his finger on. Shaking his head, he realized it was not a feeling of dread.

The crackle of the radio interrupted his speculation. A voice from the rescue team came over the line. “There’s someone in here, a woman, and she’s in bad shape.”

My sincerest apologies to Lorhainne, but I didn't have access to a computer today and my situation was just resolved. ~ Margay

Lorhainne Eckhardt

Hi Folks,

We appear to be having some technical difficulties with our post for today. Hopefully we will be able to fix them shortly.

Thanks for Your Patience!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

YA Author Spotlight Saturday Presents... Kimberly Joy Peters!!!

Hello Everyone!

As I've said before, we’ve had a lot of fun shining our spotlight on some very fine young adult authors so far. In fact, I will continue with this list until I feel it is utterly too long (maybe renew it every six months). We've brought Linda Dawda, Brian S. Pratt, Sara Zarr, Jaime Adoff and Susan Beth Pfeffers (but on a Monday), Christine Hart, and Nancy Werlin into our spotlight we affectionately call the moon and stars, and today is no different!

I'm proud to bring you Kimberly Joy Peters, the author of Posing as Ashley, which was pretty darn good!!

Kimberly Joy PetersHappy weekend! My name is Kimberly Joy Peters, and I am the author of Painting Caitlyn, Posing as Ashley, and the forthcoming (Definitely Not!) Camelot, all published by Lobster Press. I live on the lake in a small town in Central Ontario, Canada, where I work at the local school as a teacher of French and Art. Although I would never write specifically about my students’ lives, working with adolescents all day definitely helps keep me in touch with YA readers and their interests. I am often asked what it is like to be a YA author, and, as I considered that question for this blog, it occurred to me that in many ways, it is just like being back in one of my all time favourite places: high school. Hence:

Nine Ways Being a YA Author Mirrors my Adolescence

1. The possibilities are endless

Years ago, I couldn’t wait to get to high school. Then I couldn’t wait to be a senior…a graduate…a university student. Not that I didn’t enjoy myself along the way: it was just that there were so many opportunities before me, and having goals kept me going forward.

As a writer, I continue to be excited by the endless possibilities for my career. Just writing a book as a personal challenge morphed into the goal of finding a publisher, and that achievement led me to spin-offs and awards. I feel very proud of what I’ve already accomplished, but I also look forward to seeing what lies ahead.

2. I don’t know what I don’t know

Confession: when I was fifteen years old, I had a big crush on a guy in my math class. My father had died earlier in the year, and I was feeling grown-up and oh-so-mature in the aftermath. So when this boy – Paul – invited me to go camping with him and five of his friends, rather than making up an elaborate story and lying to my mother about it, I decided to act like a grown up and just tell her I was going. And thank goodness I did, because she put her foot down firmly and said “absolutely not”. “But you can trust me!” I argued, explaining that there would be separate tents. “It’s not you I don’t trust,” she countered. “It’s just not a good idea.” Flash-forward to adult me: she was totally right. It was a stupid idea. Parents do know things, despite what we believe when we are young.

Editors are kind of like parents. When I come up with elaborate, unconvincing stories, they rein me back me in, pointing out exactly where the flaws are in my plans. Sometimes, it feels unfair (I’m an artist! I should be able to create what I want!) But they are the ones with the wisdom that comes from experience, and I need to trust that – like my mother – they have my best interest at heart.

3. I’m still trying to convince people not to judge books by their covers

Once upon a time, my sister came along with me to pick up a male friend with whom I was going to a movie. As he trundled down the driveway in his army-green, ankle-length trench coat, his shoulder-length hair wrapped in a bandanna resting just above his sixteen or seventeen earrings, my sister gasped out loud and exclaimed: “Oh my gosh, Kim – I didn’t know you knew anybody like that!” Long hair, earrings and all, Neil was probably one of the brightest, kindest people I knew, but his appearance almost made my sister dismiss him. Eventually, she looked past his “cover”, and today they are the parents of two beautiful children.

Posing as AshleyStill, just as in high school, when first and lasting impressions are based on your clothes, your hair, your make-up (or lack thereof), and your expression, book covers can make or break a novel. And as much as I believe that it’s what’s inside that counts, I’ve seen grown men avert their eyes at the sight of the bare midriff on Painting Caitlyn and teenage girls squeal with delight over the bubble skirt on Posing as Ashley. People do judge books by their covers. I’m lucky, because my publisher does an amazing job at making my books visually appealing, but it’s ultimately up to me to make the insides worthwhile. Wish I’d understood that as an adolescent when my face was dotted with zits.

4. I’m still figuring out who I am

There are some things you can’t admit to anybody… (oh – wait – that’s the first line of my first novel, Painting Caitlyn. But then again, it works here, too…). Adolescence is, traditionally, a time of self-discovery. Much like the Ashley character in my novels, I spent much of my adolescence trying to balance my desire to be perceived as “normal” with the brainiac label I already had, and knew wasn’t “cool”. Often, as a result of this conflict, I’d present myself – not deceptively -- but differently, depending on who I was with. It wasn`t that I couldn’t admit to who I really was – it was just that I wasn’t yet sure of it myself.

I’m still doing it. Although I’m honored and proud to be an author of YA literature, when the dental hygienist asked me last week how I spend my summers off, it didn’t even occur to me until after she’d left the room that although I’d told her (honestly) about boating and cottaging and walking the dog, it hadn’t even occurred to me to mention that I also write books. Partly, I was just caught up in the “non-author” parts of my life – wife, teacher, slave to my pets. But truthfully, on some levels, I still don’t believe that I’m fortunate enough to be a published author, and privileged enough to touch the lives of my readers the way so many authors touched mine. Seriously. I popped into this blog a few weeks ago, hoping to get some ideas about what other guest bloggers had submitted, and saw the name “Susan Beth Pfeffer.” Here. On the same blog as me. And I got really excited to read what she had to say, because I can still tell you exactly on which part of which shelf her books were found at my local library when I was growing up, because I read them all. So even though I’m told that I’m an author, I still, most of the time, feel like a reader.

5. My popularity is still relative.

If you asked me whether I was popular in high school, I would say “no”. I didn’t date much, and in fact never dated anyone who actually went to my high school (I did marry one, but that’s another story). I rarely went to parties. I didn’t join clubs, or have a large group of friends. But a few years ago, I got a very touching email from a guy who’d attended high school with me, and who wanted to thank me for always being nice to him, even though he was (in his words) “socially challenged” and I was “popular” (his words again). The “popular” label surprised me, and I’m still certain that many of my former classmates would disagree with it completely, but from his point of view, it fit.

Painting CaitlynTo me, my “popularity” as an author of YA fiction is a similar mystery. I do not share movie billboards or million dollar sales stats with New Moon or Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, but Painting Caitlyn did join them on both the 2007 American Library Association's YALSA Quick Picks list and the 2008 International Reading Association's Young Adult Choices list [Now I have to give my library some talking to for not carrying Painting Caitlyn!]. And as a Canadian author with a small publisher, I am unlikely to have the luxury of “quitting my day job” any time soon. But my publisher says my books are well received, and continues to ask for more. So maybe, as with my high school social standing, my legacy as an author will ultimately depend not on final sales figures, but on how my books entertain and inspire the people who read them.

6. It’s still kind of hard to win over the boys…

Even though I didn’t date much in high school, I was crushing on one or two guys, and trying to get them to notice me.

As a YA author, girls readily pick my books, but guys tend to be more reluctant. It’s not just the pink and purple covers: reading isn’t something that most guys consider cool, and fiction is not generally their first choice. Still, one of my favourite compliments ever came from one of my male eighth-graders who asked when my first book, Painting Caitlyn, would be available for purchase. I’d already read the final draft out loud to his class, so I expressed surprise that he still intended to purchase it. He replied with “Yeah, but it was funny, and interesting, and I just really liked it.” Too bad those guys I used to crush on never took the time to listen to me the way my student listened to the book. They would have found out that I was funny and interesting and likable, too.

7. Like it or not, there’s always room for improvement

You know how you can work really hard on an essay or project, hand it in with confidence, and then feel completely pathetic when it comes back covered in red ink and suggestions to “make it better”? My editor makes the adjustments electronically, and she tries to be gentle, but I still often end up believing that I suck. Later, after I’ve forced myself to actually consider her suggestions, I often discover that there was room for improvement, and with a little revision, my work ends up better than before.

8. Distractions, distractions.

In high school, when I had a deadline, there was inevitably something good on TV.

Not only am I still under deadlines as an author, but technology has evolved so much during the past twenty years that now there is cable, satellite, and digital T.V., Home Box Office, and DVD rentals and – most distracting of all – YouTube.
[heh, heh, you forgot cell phones, PDAs and Kindles!]

9. I’m still working right down to the wire

Yes, I pulled all-nighters. It wasn’t that I wasn’t thinking about my essays in advance – it was just that once I actually got started on them, I had so many, many ideas that I couldn’t stop, and the best ones seemed to come just as I needed to finish up.

And yes, my brain still works that way. What began as five has morphed into nine, and I`d love to go for ten, but it`s time to hit ``send``.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Books that Rock Your Socks

Next to writing and spending time with my family, my favorite hobby is reading. Each time I settle down with a book in my hands, I’m also a reviewer, whether I’m asked for my opinion or not. Like all readers, I either like the book or I don’t.

So, I’m in the process of reviewing a book—or trying to review a book—and I’m struggling with it. Mega wattage style! If I hadn’t promised to read this book and give my opinion on it, I would have set it aside within the first ten pages I’m so bored. Seriously, braining myself with it would be less painful. (Keta, if you’re reading this, NO it is not your book, so no need to worry!) But it’s gotten me to thinking…what makes a book rock my socks? This author is popular, well known, well-respected and NY published, so she’s got clout in the writing industry. Unfortunately, I’m less than impressed. I’ve read many e-book authors that are much better writers in my opinion.

However, it has me pondering what makes a book good? Certainly, the genre has something to do with it, whether it’s romance, horror, murder-mystery, etc. But even so, some romance authors are better than other romance authors. So, what is it that makes a book good and what are the characteristics of a good book? What is it about a book that keeps me turning the page?

For me the author that is able to touch my emotions and make me feel empathy for and with the characters, those tend to be the ones I’m drawn to over and over again. If a book makes me cry, I’ve been touched by an amazing author that dragged emotion from me, which is not an easy task. Clean, easy to follow writing that flows so smoothly, it’s like a tributary feeding straight into my brain, something that takes little brain power to process, but is so entertaining it’s hard to set it aside. Also, I prefer books that push the limits, the boundaries between morally right and wrong, maybe even pitch a little on the side of taboo. But paranormal romance is my favorite, so it’s easy to stray to those sides with that genre. And I love the romance genre in particular because it’s an escape from reality. If I want reality, I’ll turn on the news and immerse myself in the horror of daily life.

Now, your turn…What is it about a book that rocks your socks?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

In the Moonlight: Karen Harrington, author of Janeology

Today's featured author is Karen Harrington, whose debut book is entitled Janeology. Karen also maintains a wonderful blog that, especially if you're a writer, you will find brimming over with interesting tidbits, including insights into her writing process and why she wrote Janeology, and family photos that inspired her.

Writers Take Heart. You Have Your Own Saint


Karen Harrington

Like most writers, I’ve collected my share of rejection notices over the years. And now that I’m on looking for an agent, I expect I’ll collect a few more. But I don’t let this get me down. I try to remember the scores of writers who’ve gone down this path in their quest just to be read.

In fact, what if I told you there was a writer so determined to draw attention to his writing he posted it on walls, slipped it under doors and handed pages to anyone he could? Crazy? Some might say so. But it’s also a model of persistence, courage and faith. And as it happens, the man nailing those pages onto walls was writing, in fact, about faith. He was Francis De
Sales, a writer so prolific and powerful he was proclaimed the Patron Saint of Writers and Journalists in 1665 by Pope Alexander VII.

Writers at all stages can take heart! You have your own saint.

De Sales wrote his whole life without ever being formally published. But his books, as we know them today, have not gone out of print in almost four centuries. (And they all enjoy an Amazon sales rank any writer would envy.)

De Sales was born in 1567, the eldest child in an aristocratic French family. His father had ambitions that his son should study law and theology, for which he eventually received doctorate degrees. After his studies were complete, he was expected to marry and take a position in the Senate. But De Sales refused and turned his attentions to his truest passion – a ministerial life.

He became a bishop of the Catholic Diocese in Geneva at a time when Calvinism was spreading. De Sales determined to lead an expedition to convert the 60,000 Calvinists back to the Catholic Church. In this regard, he developed a reputation as an exceptionally patient man. For years, no one would listen to him. No one would open the door when he knocked. So he found a way to get under the door. He wrote out his sermons and slipped them under the door.

His most famous book, Introduction to the Devout Life, is a collection of many of those letters and passages.

Today, the weary or discouraged writer, or anyone in need of encouragement, can look to St. Francis’ example of persistence in the face of rejection. So if you are waiting for that agent or publisher to call, perhaps a nod heavenward to St. Francis wouldn’t hurt. His official saints day is January 24.

Following are some wonderful passages I discovered within his writings.

“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.”

“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.”

“Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

Karen Harrington is the author of JANEOLOGY: the story of one man's attempt to understand his wife and her sudden descent into madness. Read an excerpt at

(Author photo credit: Photo by Gail Nogle)

Buy the book

On a personal note, I have had the pleasure of reading Janeology and I can honestly tell you that it is like nothing else that you will ever read. What starts out as a simple case of an overwhelmed mother taking the life of one of her children (the other survives the attempt) soon evolves into a complex tale that tackles the question of whether or not a person is genetically predisposed to commit murder. Using a combination of detective work and genealogy, the protagonist searches for those answers more for his own peace of mind rather than to save himself from going to jail, too. It is a fascinating read. ~ Margay